At the beginning of the week at the LPGA Tour’s season finale, there was only one thing that could result in Jin Young Ko winning the Player of the Year award come Sunday afternoon – a victory.
And Ko, who came into the week as the defending champion, managing to do just that.
Ko’s fifth win on the LPGA Tour in 2021 (she became the first golfer on Tour to win five times or more since Ariya Jutanugarn in 2016) came by one shot over Nasa Hataoka.
The victory means Ko nipped Nelly Korda for Player of the Year honours by just a few points. Korda won four times on Tour in 2021 (and also captured the gold medal at the Olympics) and was in the final group on Sunday alongside Ko and Hataoka.
Korda couldn’t get anything going (and finished tied for fifth), grouped with Ko, who fired a closing 9-under 63 – the round of the week.
Ko barely practiced this week, having struggled with a wrist injury, admitting she didn’t take any swings on the driving range before any of the four tournament rounds.
“I would say I didn’t practice much at all this week. I don’t know what happened out there. I played really well this week,” said Ko. “This week was amazing.”
But the lack of practice didn’t seem to bother Ko.
She repeated as the winner at the CME Group Tour Championship and added to her trophy case from this year which already included wins at the Volunteers of America Classic, Cambia Portland Classic, Cognizant Founders Cup, and the BMW Ladies Championship.
This was only Ko’s fourth season on the LPGA Tour (she did, however, only play four events in the COVID-impacted 2020), and she already has 12 victories. She just became unstoppable through the early part of Sunday, going out in a 6-under 30. Ko also didn’t miss a green for her final 63 holes. It was a ball-striking clinic.
“I didn’t like this course in 2018, I had a shock a little bit,” said Ko with a laugh. “I had two wins (at Tiburon) this year and last year and I love this course now. I want a golf course membership here.”
Hataoka finished runner-up at 22-under, while Mina Harigae and Celine Boutier finished tied for third. Megan Khang, Minjee Lee, and Korda rounded out the top five.
Golf Town Athlete Brooke Henderson was hoping to see a few more putts fall this week which could have made a big difference in her results.
Brooke, who ended up with seven top-10 finishes on the season, including a win at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open (her 10th career LPGA Tour title) said she’s looking forward to putting in lots of hard work in the off-season and get ready for a big 2022.
She finished tied for 38th after rounds of 71-70-70-71 at the final event of the LPGA Tour season.
Next year’s schedule will include a return to the CP Women’s Open, taking place at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club. Brooke is already excited to play in front of a big hometown crowd.
“I feel like a lot of my stats and rankings are in a really good spot,” said Brooke. “I was going for a multiple-win season, but to get the one win was really huge and to get into double digits in victories on the LPGA Tour was pretty cool!”